A-Team/Arctic Sea Ice blog
Ice fractures in the Arctic's Beaufort Sea were caused by a February storm.
Sept. 17, 2012
French photographer Samuel Blanc has been leading tours to Svalbard, Norway's archipelago in the Arctic, since 2007. This year the reduced sea ice extent allowed his expedition aboard the 12-passenger Polaris to circumnavigate the northern islands in early July rather than mid-August. Climate change is having a direct impact on the unique ecosystem isolated on these islands more than 400 miles north of Europe. In the following photos, Blanc gives us a tour of life on the archipelago's largest island, Spitsbergen. You can see more of his work at www.sblanc.com.
In west Spitsbergen, Little Auks, such as those pictured here, and other birds aren't safe on the cliffs. Hungry polar bears have learned to climb the steep gradients in search of food.
Polar Bears and Bleeding Glaciers
The dissolved iron seen in this glacier may help fight climate change. As the iron washes into the northern seas, it can help fertilize phytoplankton blooms that draw carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.
As global warming melts permafrost in the arctic, more carbon is released into the atmosphere. Meanwhile areas of tundra are also seeing a rise in fires.
The vast stretch of open water due to thinning of the Arctic sea ice is forcing walruses to often crowd together on beaches.
This bearded seal has found a safe spot away from polar bears and sharks. Many seals however also snooze in the water, where they are at risk of becoming of meal for the Greenland shark, the world's slowest shark.
Only three percent of the total population of arctic fox are called "Blue fox" and unlike the rest of the population, these blue critters don't turn white in the winter.
These foxes are showing their summer colors.
Though every day brings more sunlight, February is still one of the coldest months in the Arctic. The sea ice in the Arctic Ocean is now nearing its winter maximum, but the effects of a February storm markedly illustrate the changes that have happened with the Arctic sea ice cover under the effects of climate change.
In past decades, winter meant thick, years-old pack ice would extend over much of the Arctic Ocean. But the modern Arctic's thinner ice cover is more easily pushed by wind, according to Jennifer Francis, an atmospheric scientist at Rutgers University. Other factors, such as global warming, weather patterns and solar heating, also play a role in the loss.
As the Feb. 8 storm passed over the North Pole, it created a strong offshore ice motion, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC). The fracturing progressed through relatively weak, thin, year-old pack ice during February, as seen in a series of images from the NSIDC.
Similar patterns were observed in early 2011 and 2008, but the 2013 fracturing is quite extensive, the NSIDC said in a statement. The fractured area extends through the Beaufort Sea from Ellesmere Island in the Canadian Arctic to Barrow, Alaska.
The overall February ice extent remains below average, in part due to warmer-than-average temperatures, the NSIDC said. The average sea ice cover in February was 5.66 million square miles (14.66 million square kilometers), the seventh-lowest on record for the month.
Overall, the Arctic has lost more than 606,000 square miles (1.57 million square km) of winter sea ice since 1979, an area slightly smaller than Alaska, the biggest state.
More from LiveScience:
10 Things You Need to Know about Arctic Sea Ice
8 Ways Global Warming Is Already Changing the World
Arctic Sea Ice Hits a Record Minimum
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